CASSILO: Giants’ Tyree looking for his encore

David Cassilo

In football, everyone has the chance to be the hero. The pivotal play that gives a team a victory could be a touchdown pass or game-changing block. While many of these heroes are those same players who have performed at a high level their entire career, occasionally an unheralded role player steps up and becomes the star.

In Super Bowl XLII, the latter was the case for the New York Giants. As quarterback Eli Manning scrambled away from the New England Patriots’ pass rush, career role player David Tyree caught his desperate heave. Arguably the greatest catch in Super Bowl history was caught by a wide receiver known more for his special teams skills than his ability to catch the ball. Tyree was at the perfect place at the perfect time to make the perfect play that helped defeat the perfect team. If he never played another game for the New York Giants, he would still go down as a hero. However, as we approach the midway point in the ’08 NFL season, Tyree has not played a game for New York, and there is a real possibility his most memorable game as a Giant will be his last.

Before Super Bowl XLII, Tyree was known as one of the best special-teamers in the NFL. He was named an All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl for his performance on special teams in 2005. While he is listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart, it is by name only, as in his five-year career he has averaged 10.8 receptions and 130 yards per season.

The ’07 regular season was an especially difficult one for Tyree as he struggled on the field with his play and off the field dealing with the death of his mother. He finished the year playing a career-low 12 games with only four catches for 35 yards. His special teams skills got him one of the last spots on the postseason roster, but his declining overall play led many to believe this could be Tyree’s last season as a Giant. However, with one legendary Super Bowl performance, in which Tyree totaled 43 yards, one touchdown and one catch for the ages, Tyree became a household name and a fan favorite among all Giants’ fans.

The following offseason brought a whirlwind that Tyree was unused to. He was asked to attend a countless number of autograph sessions and make guest appearances at several events. Just a year ago, Tyree was a little-known special-teamer, and now he had been elevated to the same level as his teammate, star quarterback Eli Manning.

However, while his celebrity career was booming, Tyree’s on-field career did not look quite as promising. In April, Tyree needed to undergo surgery on his right knee. While he was expected to be back in time for training camp, he did not recover quickly enough and was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List just prior to the beginning of the season. Essentially, this bought the Giants until early November to give him a spot on the active roster, place him on injured reserve or release him.

While you would think his performance in last season’s biggest game would at least give him a shot to show what he can do on the field, the Super Bowl is nothing more than yesterday’s news for Head Coach Tom Coughlin. It has been made clear that the decision will be made purely on who gives the team the best chance to win right now, and with the depth at wide receiver for the Giants, Tyree may have to either sit out the rest of the year on injured reserve or go look for another team.

Wide receiver is perhaps the deepest position on the Giants this season, and each player on the active roster has done enough this season to make a strong case to stay on the team. Plaxico Burress, the team’s most talented receiver and the beneficiary of a newly signed five-year, $27.25 million contract, heads the group. It is safe to say he will not be going anywhere soon. The same can be said of Amani Toomer, who has been with the team for almost a decade and holds several franchise records. Toomer will most likely be given the chance to leave the team on his own terms. Domenik Hixon seems to have guaranteed a spot on the roster with his excellent return skills and surprising level of success filling in for the suspended Burress earlier in the season.

The group also includes young wideouts Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Sinorice Moss. Smith has become one of Manning’s favorite targets in a little over a season, while Manningham and Moss have both shown flashes of brilliance in the NFL after outstanding college careers. Even without Tyree, one of these six wide receivers is inactive every game day.

Soon, the Giants will need to make a decision regarding Tyree. While placing him on injured reserve may be the easy solution to keep the fans happy by retaining him as a member of the team, it only delays the inevitable tough choice. The Giants are full of talent at the wide receiver position, especially young talent. This could hurt Tyree.

The front office must decide if it is worth cutting one of these promising players just to keep their Super Bowl hero on the roster. Tyree earned a spot in the hearts of Giants fans everywhere with his performance and spectacular catch late in the contest in Super Bowl XLII, but the tougher challenge may be earning the opportunity to have his encore.


David Cassilo is a junior communication major from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].